PANEL 3: LANGUAGE
CHAIR: Oyewo Olusola Oyeyinka
Note: Click on the title to read the full paper. Click on the author’s name to read their biography.
Towards a Language Policy for Journalistic Practice in Africa
Modestus Fosu, Ghana Institute of Journalism, Accra.
This paper provides a new dimension to language use in journalistic practice. The aim is to engineer consensus for a journalistic language policy in education in order to include the masses in the political discourse. Thus far, the concern has been the use of decent and ethical language to avoid inflaming passions. In communication textbooks and training institutions as well as in practice, the emphasis has been to use correct grammar, apt words and sentences, to transmit news. However, word economy and the accessibility of language in terms of meaning and understanding are largely ignored. This paper posits that the newspapers in Ghana do not really communicate. Their language (English) is generally way above the understanding of the average reader. Therefore the print media is practising what I describe as “semantic exclusivism” within Ghana’s participatory democracy. Participation, a vital tenet of democracy, allows for people’s involvement in vital decisions that affect their lives, especially during elections. But to do this, the people must be informed of the issues and the choices available. Hence, the paper uses analytical semantics and sociolinguistic resources to do a content study of two state-owned daily newspapers in Ghana. The findings may demonstrate that the language used does not make for easy reading and understanding for various reasons.
The media industry in Malawi has lately shown a malaise in writing – especially in English and Chichewa. While a survey has not yet been done to determine the root causes, most hypotheses point to a weakened primary and secondary school language curriculum. The paper argues that journalism education is not concentrating on the right skills, which should now include English Language and Composition as a core subject. Where possible, the study of languages as science (linguistics) is advocated. So far, the net effect has been bad English, even in headlines, and an impression that journalists and editors are more interested in quickly “telling” the story than “doing it well”. The paper will try to isolate three main areas of concern. Firstly, a general lack of above-average linguistic baggage, which is a must for media professionals. This will require extensive reading programmes and the study of Literature. Secondly, a perceived “Linguistic Interference Syndrome” for the Malawian (African) journalists who are multi-lingual. For this, the paper advocates a comparative analysis of form in key languages given certain situations. Lastly, there is a gap in essential skills such as translation. The paper argues that translation should be a core subject as most reporters work in two or three languages.
Institutionalising African Language Journalism Studies
Professor Abiodun Salawu, University of Fort Hare, Alice, South Africa.
The need for the study of African language media is predicated on the opportunity to understand the practicalities of how the media can be used to support languages under threat; and in a more academic sense, to appreciate such media as an intriguing example of the media’s role in society. Apart from their study, the indigenous languages, themselves, have their own purposes. The paper advocates for a formal and systematic integration of this sector of the media into Journalism/Media curriculum. This advocacy is being pursued with the optimism of the possibility of a theorisation of indigenous language media, or at least the development of a framework within which such media might be considered. The field can be seen within the context of the politics of language and the media’s relation to it. Alongside the issue of language survival, we can also situate the field within the praxis of cultural and political self-preservation, and identity politics. The field can also be seen within the context of effective and interactive communication, and a vibrant public sphere.